Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Tag Wars

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Recently I have become acutely aware of tags, and how fun they are.  For quite some time now, I've been involved in "The Tag Wars" on the Underground, a forum I frequent.  Now it seems that the tagging has spread to my blog.  :)
Thanks to Hyperlinkzer and Jack Stride for tagging me!
In this tag, I am supposed to share ten things about myself and then proceed to tag ten more people.  I don't know many people on blogger, but I'll do my best to think of some.  :)  So now, without further ado, I give you the tag.

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1.  You know that stereo-typical nerd/geek girl in the movies?  The one with glasses, braces, other horrendous mouth gear... the one who lugs around a huge book bag and always has her nose buried in a novel or a textbook?  The one who dresses like an adult instead of a teen... but can actually look really cool and beautiful?  That's me.

2.  I am rather obsessive about my hair.  I spend a significant amount of time in my time in the morning brushing it to perfection.

3.  I play a variety of musical instruments.  Alto Saxophone, Piano, Guitar, Penny Whistle, and I sing. 

4.  I know the histories of Middle Earth slightly better than I know the histories of our own world... heheh.  *sheepish laugh*  

5.  When I was little, my right thumb would not straighten out all the way due to the fact that the cartilage was too short.  I had to have surgery to fix it.  My middle fingers are crooked on each hand, and my pinkies couldn't straighten all the way out either.  However, I managed to fix the latter problem by stretching them every day.  

6.  I have an extremely active imagination, and can picture and feel almost anything I want to.  Just the other day I was sitting in a restaurant with my sisters, and described to them a scene in which Legolas, Gimli, and Aragorn walked up to order a pizza, and Loki, tired of waiting in line, used his magic to cause the hand sanitizer to spill on Gimli's head.  I know.  I'm weird.  ;D

7.  Sometimes... actually a lot of times, I like to play in front of my mirror, acting out what I read or write.  This is how I've perfected my many different accents.  And, occasionally, one of my family members will walk in on me, forcing me to sheepishly explain what was going on.  

8.  While I love to study about the most obscure topics, and can spout information on many things, it's undeniable that I am a bit ditzy.  How else could I walk halfway through my house and then forget where I'm going?  Or say that the U.S. National Anthem is different than the Star Spangled Banner?  Ugh... I'll probably never live that one down.  What can I say?  I got it confused with God Bless America...

9.  I love chocolate.  Hot Chocolate, chocolate milk, chocolate coffee, chocolate bars, chocolate cake...

10.  Some people think I'm shy, while others are just intimidated by the fact that I don't smile or talk very much.  But really, I'm not shy at all.  I'm just listening to the conversations around me, and if someone would just start a conversation with me instead of waiting for me to do it, they'd find that I actually love to talk.  As evidenced by my long-winded blog posts.  ;)

I will now tag...

JTZ Banner (that's right- all of you! So this one counts as three)

And... that's about all the people I can think of.  Which brings me to my last resort:  If you see this post, and you haven't been tagged, feel free to do it!  :D  
That's all for now...  tune in next time for a book review of William Joyce's series, The Guardians!

-Rayne Speryll

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Father's (or Mother's) Lamentations

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A friend of mine from a forum called the Underground once shared this on her thread.  It's absolutely hilarious, but neither she nor I wrote it.  Alas, I do not know the original author, so I don't know where the credit is due.  Nevertheless, I just had to share this with you.
Enjoy, and thank you to whoever wrote it!  :)

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Hear ye now, oh ye children who have ears to hear, and listen attentively to the lamentations and laws whereby thou mightest receive wisdom and instruction. Harken, I say, and again I say harken ye in all the land.

Laws of Forbidden Places:
Of the beasts of the field, and of the fishes of the sea, and of all foods that are acceptable in my sight you may eat, but not in the living room. Of the hoofed animals, broiled or ground into burgers, you may eat, but not in the living room. Of the cloven-hoofed animal, plain or with cheese, you may eat, but not in the living room. Of the cereal grains, of the corn and of the wheat and of the oats, and of all the cereals that are of bright color and unknown provenance you may eat, but not in the living room. Of the quiescently frozen dessert and of all frozen after-meal treats you may eat, but absolutely not in the living room. Of the juices and other beverages, yes, even of those in sippy-cups, you may drink, but not in the living room, neither may you carry such therein. Indeed, when you reach the place where the living room carpet begins, of any food or beverage there you may not eat, neither may you drink.

But if you are sick, and are lying down and watching something, then may you eat in the living room.

Now Harken Ye To The Laws When at Table:
And if you are seated in your high chair, or in a chair such as a greater person might use, keep your legs and feet below you as they were. Neither raise up your knees, nor place your feet upon the table, for that is an abomination to me. Yes, even when you have an interesting bandage to show, your feet upon the table are an abomination, and worthy of rebuke. Drink your milk as it is given you, neither use on it any utensils, nor fork, nor knife, nor spoon, for that is not what they are for; if you will dip your blocks in the milk, and lick it off, you will be sent away. When you have drunk, let the empty cup then remain upon the table, and do not bite it upon its edge and by your teeth hold it to your face in order to make noises in it sounding like a duck; for you will be sent away.
When you chew your food, keep your mouth closed until you have swallowed, and do not open it to show your brother or your sister what is within; I say to you, do not so, even if your brother or your sister has done the same to you. Eat your food only; do not eat that which is not food; neither seize the table between your jaws, nor use the raiment of the table to wipe your lips. I say again to you, do not touch it, but leave it as it is. And though your stick of carrot does indeed resemble a marker, draw not with it upon the table, even in pretend, for we do not do that, that is why. And though the pieces of broccoli are very like small trees, do not stand them upright to make a forest, because we do not do that either, that is why. Sit just as I have told you, and do not lean to one side or the other, nor slide down until you are nearly slid away. Heed me; for if you sit like that, your hair will go into the syrup. And now behold, even as I have said, it has come to pass.
Laws Pertaining to Dessert
For we judge between the plate that is unclean and the plate that is clean, saying first, if the plate is clean, then you shall have dessert. But of the unclean plate, the laws are these: If you have eaten most of your meat, and two bites of your peas with each bite consisting of not less than three peas each, or in total six peas, eaten where I can see, and you have also eaten enough of your potatoes to fill two forks, both forkfuls eaten where I can see, then you shall have dessert. But if you eat a lesser number of peas, and yet you eat the potatoes, still you shall not have dessert; and if you eat the peas, yet leave the potatoes uneaten, you shall not have dessert, no, not even a small portion thereof. And if you try to deceive by moving the potatoes or peas around with a fork, that it may appear you have eaten what you have not, you will fall into iniquity. And I will know, and you shall have no dessert.
Laws On Screaming
Do not scream; for it is as if you scream all the time. If you are given a plate on which two foods you do not wish to touch are touching each other, your voice rises up even to the ceiling, while you point to the offense with the finger of your right hand; but I say to you, scream not, only remonstrate gently with the server, that the server may correct the fault. Likewise if you receive a portion of fish from which every piece of herbal seasoning has not been scraped off, and the herbal seasoning is loathsome to you, and steeped in vileness, again I say, refrain from screaming. Though the vileness overwhelm you, and cause you a faint unto death, make not that sound from within your throat, neither cover your face, nor press your fingers to your nose. For even now I have made the fish as it should be; behold, I eat of it myself, yet do not die.
Concerning Face and Hands
Cast your countenance upward to the light, and lift your eyes to the hills, that I may more easily wash you off. For the stains are upon you; even to the very back of your head; there is rice thereon. And in the breast pocket of your garment, and upon the tie of your shoe, rice and other fragments are distributed in a manner wonderful to see. Only hold yourself still; hold still, I say. Give each finger in its turn for my examination thereof, and also each thumb. Lo, how iniquitous they appear. What I do is as it must be; and you shall not go hence until I have done.
Various Other Laws, Statutes, and Ordinances
Bite not, lest you be cast into quiet time. Neither drink of your own bath water, nor of bath water of any kind; nor rub your feet on bread, even if it be in the package; nor rub yourself against cars, nor against any building; nor eat sand.
Leave the cat alone, for what has the cat done, that you should so afflict it with tape? And hum not that humming in your nose as I read, nor stand between the light and the book. Indeed, you will drive me to madness. Nor forget what I said about the tape.
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-Rayne Speryll

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Darth Writers Block; An Author's Worst Enemy

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She sat, staring desperately  at the blank screen in front of her, her fingers poised over the keys.  The dark figure behind her rested a hand on her shoulder, his presence weighing down on her like a thick, cold blanket.  
Leaning close, he whispered softly in her ear... "Well?  You said you were going to write.  You're free to go; write to your heart's content."
The girl closed her eyes, cringing at the feel of his ice-cold breath on her neck.  "Stop it,"  she said, "why can't you just leave me in peace?"
"Leave you?"  he whispered incredulously.  "Rayne, you know me.  I've been your almost constant companion for years.  Granted, I come and go, but you must admit that I am a much more faithful companion to you than your beloved Sir Inspiration."
"I don't care.  I promised myself I would write, but whenever you're near me, my mind goes black.  My fingers won't respond to my commands.  The words stick in my mouth, and I simply cannot think of what I was going to say.  Why must you torment me so?  Why do you feel the need to plague me so often?"
Behind her, Darth Writer's block chuckled, a smooth, echoing chuckle that spun in her head.  "How I would love to take the credit for such power... but you know that it isn't just me.  It is true that my presence does put a damper on your creativity, grounding you in the real world, but in truth it is yourself that is holding you back."
"Stop-"  Rayne began, not wanting to hear it, but Writer's Block continued.
"Admit it to yourself, Rayne!  You're nothing but a procrastinating sap, full of empty promises.  Do you know how long your friends, sisters, and editors have been waiting for new material?"
"Fine!"  Rayne finally admitted, pulling away from his grasp and standing to face him.  The dark figure stood at least two feet taller than her, making her feel small and helpless, despite her own great height.  
"Enough with your taunts and jabs.  I know I'm procrastinating!  That, however, is mostly your fault.  If you would cease your dominating tactics, I'm sure I could write something.  I'm filled with ideas..."
"...Yet somehow, you never get around to writing them."  Writer's Block laughed.  "Well, don't let me stop your procrastinating ways.  It's alright, I understand.  Why don't you put away your pen... or keys, computer, memory chip, whichever metaphorical term you prefer, and put it off for a while longer.  Let me take this burden from you!  The sooner you admit that you've failed, the sooner you can begin to heal..."
Rayne's eyes hardened, and she glared up at him, determined not to listen.  "Enough of your lies, Darth,"  she  growled, a steely edge entering her voice.  "I've. Had. Enough."
Darth Writer's Block smiled wickedly. "Or you'll do what?  What can you do against me?  Your beloved hero, Sir Inspiration, is nowhere near to save you.  It appears he has other, more important people to visit.  You are a secondary priority to him."
Rayne's eyes darted to her own sword, which rested against the wall, too often unused.  Following her gaze, Writer's Block stiffened, but he still managed to chuckle dismissively.  
"What's this?  The little warrior taking up arms for herself?  Do you really think you can defeat me?"
Grasping her sword, Rayne's eyes hardened as she leveled it's tip with Writer's Block's chest.  "Yes,"  she said with a roguish smile, "I do."

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As you may have guessed from my little exercise above, Darth Writer's Block is a frequent visitor of mine.  By now, I've gotten used to it.  I guess you could say, we coexist with one another, and eventually, he'll leave me to my own devices.  However, occasionally (like right now, for instance), he tends to overstay his welcome.  When this happens, there are a few basic methods I use to get rid of him.

1)  I go back to the original inspiration of the story I'm writing.  If I can get back to that feeling that I had when I first started writing, often I can get back into the story itself.  

2)  I change perspective, either by switching to another character's point of view, or going back in the story and following another trail through the twisted labyrinth of the book.  This adds a fresh feeling to the story,  and sometimes that's all you need to get started again.

3)  If those two don't work, then I surround myself with other things that inspire me.  Epic music, other books I've read that are similar to my own, movies that remind me of my story... pictures of beautiful scenery...  anything, really.  If I can draw inspiration from outside sources, sometimes it's enough to rejuvenate my self into action.

4)  If that still doesn't work, then I ask someone to read the story for me and offer their opinion.  My sisters are usually happy enough to do this, and if not, then I'll go to my faithful online forum and have some of my fellow writers read it.  I'm a succor for people's feedback; I have to know what they think.  Who is their favorite character, what is their favorite part, what to they like best about the story, what do they think could improve?  Sometimes, with enough feedback and critique, I can get back into writing the story.

5)  Alright, if I get to this step, I'm pretty desperate.  So what I'll do is I'll STOP WRITING THE STORY.  I'll just take a break and move on to a different story for a while, and concentrate my efforts on that one until the block lifts and I can get back to the original story.

6)  If I've reached this step, I'm in a bad place.  Because if I"m at step six, it means that Writer's Block's influence has spread to all of my other stories, and I'm completely stuck.    I'm praying for my inspiration to return so I can get back to work and feel useful again.
But, alas, what Writer's Block said is true... at this point it isn't just his presence that's holding me back, it's me.  My own procrastination has taken hold, which means there's only one thing left to do!  
Face him myself.  Which is why today, I've resolved to work on my stories, and plow ahead regardless of whether it's flowing or not.  I'll get through this block if it's the last thing I do!

Anyway, I hope this helps any of you fellow authors out there who are in a similar position.  Now, I'm off to see to some siblings of mine, and then it's time to take my given advice!
Eulalia!  Endurance and Victory!  Narniaaa!  For Middle Earth!

-Rayne Speryll

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Review: The Stoneheart Trilogy

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When young George breaks the head off of a dragon statue, he starts a war between beings he never knew existed- the Spits and the Taints, living statues who walk unseen by normal folk due to the fact that "reasonable" people can't believe in them.  
The Spits, statues of people and ideas made by artists who wished to capture something of the person or idea they came from, fight for good.  They wish to protect innocent people and preserve the peace.  
However, the Taints, that is, gargoyles and other such intimidating statues created only to frighten people, are bitter and hateful toward all Spits and mortals, and they will do anything to claim the world for their own.
George and his new friend Edie, a Glint, find themselves caught up in the middle of this ongoing war- and now the Taints are after George!  Together with The Gunner, a statue of a  World War I soldier, George and Edie set out to mend the rift they have broken and bring peace back to London-- before it's too late.

Stoneheart, the first book in the Stoneheart Trilogy, was great.  It was exciting, mysterious, and suspenseful, though at times, it was quite dark. I enjoyed it very much at first, especially the character known as The Gunner.  
However, as I continued to read the book, the dark, heavy mood did not lift.  I kept reading, thinking that it would get better, but it didn't.  At times, there were light, happy moments, like when Edie and George finally started lowering their shells and opening up to each other, or when The Gunner realized just how much he cared about the two kids.  But mostly, this story was just dark.  There was no hope at all; it was only fear, dread, and depression.
Part of this is because this is not a Christian series.  It is completely godless, and though it doesn't bash Christianity, the characters do not have the hope or love that followers of Christ do.
Part of this, also, is because of the dark nature of the series.  For example, the character Edie is a Glint, being a girl who is so sharp and intelligent that she cuts through the "layers" of London, and is able to see things which are invisible to normal people.  She also has the ability to "glint" the past by touching stone, or metal, which was present during especially terrible times throughout history.  Because stones only remember catastrophic events, Edie has been forced from childhood to glimpse things that no child should ever see- things like war, violence, sadness, sickness, and all manners of other terrible things.  This makes her hard and precocious for her age, and she feels alone, as though she is going crazy.  

By the time the second book comes, the series takes a turn for the worst, getting more and more dark as it goes along.  While it doesn't directly deal with incredibly horrible things, it is implied and suggested, leaving your mind to wonder what it could be referring to.  What could be so horrible that a young girl wouldn't even talk about it?  
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I didn't want to know.  Unfortunately, there is no break in the depressing feel through out the books, thus I have to admit to skim-reading through most of the third book.
The Stoneheart Trilogy isn't one I would re-read.  Despite the good premise, the exciting plots, and overall good ending, I have to admit that the only reason I made it through the series was because I wanted to find out what happened to The Gunner.  

If you like exciting, suspenseful, and dark books, you'll probably love this one.  As far as I saw, there wasn't anything bad content-wise, although I wouldn't recommend it for anyone younger than twelve-thirteen.  
However, if you, like me, tend to reflect what you read in your mood and thought, then I would advise you to find a different book.  There are other stories just as good, but without the depressing element.
Kudos to the author for writing the series.  The writing, if nothing else, was great.  :)

-Rayne Speryll

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Mi Ancla

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When all the world is spinning round,
Like a red balloon way up in the clouds,

And my feet will not stay on the ground, 
You anchor me back down....

...When people pin me as a clown,
You treat me as though I'm wearing a crown
When I lost I feel so very found when
You anchor me back down

The English translation of the  first and third verse of Mindy Gledhill's song, Mi Ancla- or My Anchor.   I recently discovered this song while I was lying in bed for two days, sick with a miserable cold.  I was touched by how innocent and sweet this little love song was, and I've since listened to it many times.  My sisters, too, have fallen in love with her songs, others including All the Pennies and Whole Wide World.
Today in church as I was listening to the sermon, my father the pastor made a comparison between Jesus, the Savior, and an anchor.  Immediately I thought of the song Mi Ancla.
I'm sure many people have heard the analogy of Jesus as the Life Preserver.  When we're drowning in our sins, and the toils and miseries of the world, and simply our own thoughts, Jesus is the One who keeps us afloat, holding us through the storm and bringing us to a save harbor.  When we're desperate for help, at the end our our ropes, Jesus is the one who will carry us through it all, if we only cry out to him.  This is an accurate analogy, and it's one that I'm quite familiar with.
However, I confess that I haven't often thought of Him as an anchor before.  This, too, however, is an accurate analogy.  When ships are threatened with being swept out to sea, or off on the wrong course, they put down their anchors, and are held fast on solid ground.  
Jesus, too, should be our anchors amid all of life's chaotic distractions.  Like the lyrics in the song, he will anchor us back down, when the world is spinning round.  When we cannot keep our feet on the ground, or our heads out of the clouds, he will be there to anchor us back down, where we will stand firm on the solid rock.  And, like in the song, when we are worthy of nothing but condemnation, Jesus sets a crown on our heads, declaring to the world that we are his children.  

All have sinned, and fallen short of the Glory of God.  We deserve to be sent to Hell, and none of us could buy our way to Heaven with our good deeds.  I know that many people cringe at the idea of a supposedly loving God who would send someone to Hell, but the truth is that He is so Holy that it would be an abomination for Him to not send us to Hell.  When a sin is committed, retribution must be made, and there is no getting around that.  Fortunately for us, God loved us so much that He was willing to give up His only Son to pay for our sins.  Jesus offered Himself as a willing sacrifice, taking our place in death and in Hell so that we could be covered by his Grace and find life in Heaven.  That is why even though we are unworthy and impure, He can treat us as though we wear crowns.  

Many people ask why so many horrible things happen to us.  They can't understand why they must suffer the hardships that have befallen them.  I have lived a sheltered life, and when I have spoken to them, the tell me that I wouldn't understand.  I haven't been through the terrible times that they have, so I wouldn't know what it's like to question whether God is there.  Why would He allow such misery to happen in the world?
I can tell you right now that they're right- I haven't been through much hardship, and I don't have an answer for them.  I don't know why God allows hardship in our lives, and I'm sure the reason is different every time. But what I do know is this; even in our darkest hour, when we stand balancing on treacherous path, with precipices on either side, God is there, holding us, even if we can't see or feel Him.  From where He is, there is a different perspective; He sees the whole plan, the whole road, from beginning to end, and when the time comes, if we have faith in Him, we will look back and see his hand in our lives.

When all the world is spinning 'round, with troubles, anxieties, pleasures, hopes, and dreams; When we simply cannot keep our feet on the ground, God is always there to anchor us back down.  
And that is why Jesus will always and forever be...

Mi Ancla.

-Rayne Speryll

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Book Review: House of Many Ways

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Hello, readers!  I apologize for my absence, but when a holiday comes around, I tend to get a little busy.  :)  I had intended to post some art that I had done in honor of Easter, but my scanner seems to be broken.  Hopefully I'll be able to get it fixed soon.  

As it is, I have decided to do a book review of House of Many Ways,  by Dianna Wynne Jones, for my friend and frequent commenter- Leilani Sunblade.  

House of Many Ways  is a sequel (actually, three-quel) to Howl's Moving Castle.  It tells the story of young Charmain, a rather feisty and eccentric bookworm, who is charged with watching over her great-uncle William's house while he is away being treated for an illness by the Elves.
While getting used to Uncle William's very strange house, Charmain becomes the assistant librarian to the the king of her home country- High Norland.  It is through this job that she discovers that High Norland is close to bankruptcy, and that the king and his daughter have hired Sophie Pendragon to find the missing treasure.  And, much to our pleasure, Sophie brings her young son Morgan, the Fire Demon Calcifer, and (against her will) her husband Howl, disguised as a child named Periwinkle.
Together with our beloved heroes and heroines, Charmain discovers a plot to take over the kindgom, and the key to saving her country may rest in her hands alone...

Like Howl's Moving Castle, House of Many Ways features a cast of enjoyably imperfect characters.  Not a single one of them is the shining example of how one aught to behave, but they acknowledge this and do their best to put up with each other and function well.
Our new heroine, Charmain, starts out as a spoiled child, but ends up as a responsible young girl, albeit still obsessed with books.  But then, I can't fault her for that, can I?  There are plenty of amusing to downright funny circumstances, as well as a healthy dose of mystery and suspense.  This is a very light-hearted, fun adventure, suitable for all ages.

There are no negatives to this book.  As in Howl's Moving Caslte, the element of magic is present, and at one point, Charmain is seen reading a book called Memoirs of an Exorcist that convinces her that ghosts are, in fact, real, and very unpleasant things indeed.  However, this book is not explored in any way, and it is left up to the reader to decide what this means.

If you are a fan of Howl's Moving Castle, it's sequel Castle in the Air, or of just plain old fantasy, I recommend this book to you.  It is a good, quick read, and very enjoyable, if slightly different than it's predecessor.  

-Rayne Speryll